I'm very honored that the Historical Novel Society's Historical Novels Review has selected The Confessions of Catherine de Medici as an Editor's Choice for their May 2010 edition. The HNS has been such an instrumental organization for me, both professionally and personally, and I have to admit, this is my favorite review so far. I am re-producing it here, with HNS permission.
THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI
C. W. Gortner, Ballantine, 2010, $25.00, hb, 416pp, 9780345501868 / To be pub by Hodder & Stoughton in 2011
Catherine de Medici came to the French court as a reluctant princess: young and naive, and yet somehow she knew her destiny was to guide France to glory. She was the last legitimate descendant of Lorenzo de Medici; she carried her pride well. It is written that she had second sight, and with this gift and her consultations with Nostradamus, Catherine was guided to act. After her husband’s death, her mediocrity faded and she gained increasing power. She emerged as an astute, formidable, and shrewdly confident regent who maintained a tenacious hold on governing France during her time. Religious tolerance was her mantra, and the survival of France was paramount.
To know Catherine, the reader must understand her culture, social life, and children. Romance eluded her, with the exception of her often-overlooked friendship with Coligny, the Protestant leader whom she would later hunt down. The chasm between the followers of Calvin, the Huguenot heretics, and the Catholics who were the dominant power is historically important to her life’s story. Gortner interweaves this pivotal, complex issue into his novel, bringing with it clear understanding.
Gortner’s story provides a compelling and fascinating view of Catherine’s life and world, her world being France. The reader will empathize with Catherine, ache for her, and sometimes recoil in disgust when her actions become too extreme. The details and the chronology of historical events told as Catherine’s confessions in first-person narrative are personal and emotionally realistic. When Hercule, her crippled son, is drawing his last breath, the scene is woefully tragic, so beautifully penned that the passage will beseech tears. You will devour this read desperate to satiate your curiosity. The writing is as illuminating and powerful as the character of infamous legend known as Catherine de Medici. Highly recommended without a doubt! - Wisteria Leigh